Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Followup: What's wrong with public schools?

By ramses0 in Culture
Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:21:49 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Inspire, hypatia and I got into a neat little conversation about the differences between public schools in Australia vs. public schools in the United States.

It seems very unfair that the smartest students in public schools often do know more than their teachers. Is homeschooling the answer?


Some kid who was home-schooled just won a spelling bee and a geography bee. I don't think that home-schooling and intelligence are related, but it does raise some interesting questions.

If you haven't had a chance, you might want to go back and read some of the commentary in Edumakasion does(n't) werk, it's very thought provoking, and has a lot of different perspectives being explained.

It was very disheartening to learn that the requirements for being a teacher in Australia (and presumably the rest of the world) are so low. In my opinion, being a teacher requires a great degree of skill and intelligence- it is disheartening to learn that the persons holding the gate will accept people who don't have those skills or intelligence.

And adding insult to injury, it seems like all teachers unions disapprove of merit-based raises. I can see where it would be a very tricky thing to measure how effective a teacher is (and would a teacher give good grades in exchange for a good review), but surely there has to be some sort of solution.

  • Does public school provide an adequate environment for bright children to learn?
  • Should really smart kids have to pay to get the education best suited to them?
  • Is it worth home-schooling your own children?
  • What would be some benefits of maybe 5 families getting together and rotating days to home-school their kids?

The fact that home-schooling even exists (and that it is not considered very uncommon) tells me that the public school system has failed at least some group of parents or students.

I know that there is more to going to school than simply learning facts. E-mode.com has a series of tests, one a traditional IQ test, another testing emotioanal iq, but then again, their most popular test is What breed of dog are you?

Discuss, as needed. Why does public education sometimes get such a bad reputation?

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o public schools in Australia vs. public schools in the United States
o just won a spelling bee and a geography bee
o Edumakasio n does(n't) werk
o E-mode.com
o traditiona l IQ test
o testing emotioanal iq
o What breed of dog are you?
o Also by ramses0


Display: Sort:
Followup: What's wrong with public schools? | 90 comments (90 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I agree that there needs to be high... (2.00 / 1) (#9)
by Marcin on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 09:54:31 PM EST

Marcin voted 1 on this story.

I agree that there needs to be higher standards for teachers. I was lucky in that the school I went to was a selective high school, where theoretically only the smarter kids go to.. I didn't really have any problems with any teachers there knowing less than the students, and they could also teach at a 'higher level' because the average intelligence (theoretically ;)) of the students was higher.

Here in Australia the people that end up doing teaching degrees are either those that couldn't get into anything else or, rarely, those that REALLY want to do it.
M.

i can't quote sources, so i can't v... (2.00 / 1) (#6)
by captain larry on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 10:24:56 PM EST

captain larry voted 1 on this story.

i can't quote sources, so i can't vouch for it's authenticity but it rings true to me, and i trust the source ... disclaimer aside here's what i have. the modern schooling system wasn't originally designed to teach people to think for themselves. it was designed when in the beginning of the industrial age it was discovered that there was a shortage of people who could perform basic academic tasks (reading, writing and arithmatic). they didn't want, or need, an enlightened workforce, the needed an sufficiently education work force that they could do the job and would do what they were told so they would stay and work log hours in factories in fairly horrendous conditions. our current schooling system is the child of this original design. our schools aren't designed to give the bright kids the benifit of the system, they are designed to make sure that as high a percentage of the kids put through school as possible can do a bare minimum of things. everythign beyond that is gravy. what's the solution? if we could rebuild the school system hwo would we do it? i don't know. i know that montessori school worked wonders for me, i learned more in the 3 years that i went to a montesorri school then i did in the following 7 in public schools.
-- Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. - Pablo Picasso

I don't think that home-schooling a... (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by maynard on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 10:28:17 PM EST

maynard voted -1 on this story.

I don't think that home-schooling and intelligence are related, but it does raise some interesting questions.
Your questions are three paragraphs after this sentance... very confusing. This is a perfectly valid discussion for K5 and a critical social issue for our nation as we enter the 2000 electoral race... but the write up needs to be re-done. I suggest you reorganize it so that there aren't glaring style problems and add some meat to your argument. Don't just show us some links and say 'so what do you think?' Give us YOUR opinion and back it up with some valid references, whether you support vouchers, home schooling, or the public school system. Good luck! :-)

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
I went to public school in Canada, ... (2.00 / 2) (#11)
by J0hn on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 10:32:02 PM EST

J0hn voted 1 on this story.

I went to public school in Canada, and personally, I found that it met all my academic (I am currently working on a phd in mathematics for what its worth). My sisters attented public school in the US, and there was certainly a difference. At the American high school the graduation requirements were not any less strict, nor were the core classes any easier. Students, in general, were just not encouraged to take classes which would challenge them. Nor do students go out of their way to be challenged, especially if taking hard classes means they won't get that 4.0 GPA and lose their validictorian spot. I don't think the education system is particularly bad, I do think modern culture doesn't do a fantastic job of preparing todays youth to be students. I don't know if there is any way to change the education system to accomodate students with less ambition and shorter attention spans. I don't see any easy ways to fix the problems with education, this is definitely a topic worthy of discussion. One thing I disagree with however: > It seems very unfair that the smartest students in public > schools often do know more than their teachers. This is perhaps true in less than 1% of cases. It is more likely true that the smartest students are smarter than their teachers, but it is not often the case that they know more. Unless you are talking about the poor excuses for computer classes they offer at public schools.

Re: I went to public school in Canada, ... (none / 0) (#60)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:53:53 PM EST

Ok, you must have been luckier than me.

I also went to public school in Canada. These were schools (one in Quebec, one in Newfoundland) which had very good academic reputations. And the standards were pathetic. We were pushed to get the right number of credits in the right areas. I was forced to take pathetically easy language and literature courses that were a *complete* waste of time, taught by teachers who obviously didn't have a clue.

As someone who has always read an awful lot, which I suppose makes quite a difference, since the large majority of most of my classmates had trouble reading aloud from a book without stumbling over their words (and I'm not just talking Shakespeare here), I spent about 80% of my time in high school being utterly frustated at being forced to waste my time listening to teachers who were, in quite a few cases, although certainly not all - there were definitely a few good ones buried among the incompetents - pretty dim compared to some of the students.

Unfortunately I always come across as rude if I try and explain how utterly pathetic the education standards are in Canada. I know that compared to the States for example, they certainly aren't worse. But personally I feel cheated... There are so many areas that I could have benefitted from learning about, and instead I was forced to relearn the same useless junk over and over again.

If you feel your school in Canada did a decent job at challenging those who wanted it, then as I said before, you're lucky. At both my schools, and several other supposedly "good" publis schools, the standards were awful.

[ Parent ]

"Some kid who was home-schooled jus... (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by feline on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 11:29:50 PM EST

feline voted 1 on this story.

"Some kid who was home-schooled just won a spelling bee and a geography bee. I don't think that home-schooling and intelligence are related, but it does raise some interesting questions."

That means they spend more time with their parents, and it's very stereotypical of suburbian american parents to push their children to do 'their best,' esspeccially in contests and games and such, it seems to help them with their pride. And in a home school environment, that gives the parent seven or so extra hours to push their children.

"And adding insult to injury, it seems like all teachers unions disapprove of merit-based raises."

Yes, I've noticed reading some teacher pay-levels that teachers are primarily payed based on their 'experience,' experience being how long they've teached.

"Does public school provide an adequate environment for bright children to learn?"

I'm going to have to go with no on this one, as a public school student myself, I hate going to school and I hate listening to my boring teachers going on about something that I might find interesting if the teacher knew what they were talking about and had a good reason for teaching it other than "I was told to." I usually learn more on irc than I do from my teachers, says something there, doesn't it...

"The fact that home-schooling even exists (and that it is not considered very uncommon) tells me that the public school system has failed at least some group of parents or students."

Often times, home-school students don't have an alternitive, and that's why home-schooling came about, I believe. It's very difficult for heavily-sick (cancer, HIV and other things like that) kids to actually get to school.

IMO, the only way school can be effective is if somehow, someway, schools make school interesting, and maybe even "customized" to students needs.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'

Re: (none / 0) (#54)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:48:51 PM EST

> Yes, I've noticed reading some teacher pay-levels that teachers are primarily payed
> based on their 'experience,' experience being how long they've teached.
One argument against merit-based pay is that if you reward a teacher for how that teacher's students do each year, then you are encouraging dishonest teachers to flub GPAs so they can get raises. Of course, if teachers still had to use bell-curves instead of the BS that passes for grading curves these days (both in pre-collegiate and collegiate education) this wouldn't be a problem. And if you instead base "merit" on performance on standardized tests, then you encourage teaching to the test, rather than actually teaching.

> I'm going to have to go with no on this one, as a public school student myself, I
> hate going to school and I hate listening to my boring teachers going on about
> something that I might find interesting if the teacher knew what they were talking
> about and had a good reason for teaching it other than "I was told to." I usually
> learn more on irc than I do from my teachers, says something there, doesn't it...
how sure are you that your ego isn't getting in the way of your ability to learn? There's a _lot_ of crap that's passed around online that has little or no factual basis to it. My teachers were very knowledgable, and often pointed out inconsistencies between the textbooks and reality (Columbus discovering America, Henry Ford inventing the Automobile, etc.). If you feel your teacher is telling you something that's wrong, it's your duty to speak up and challenge it. Maybe you'll be wrong. Maybe you'll be right. Education isn't a one-way street. And if you're regularly hearing from teachers that somebody told them they have to teach some material, talk to administrators to find out why.

When in doubt, get your parents and your friends' parents upset about the state of education in your schools and propose constructive solutions to those problems.

[ Parent ]
critisizing educators (none / 0) (#61)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:30:26 PM EST

"If you feel your teacher is telling you something that's wrong, it's your duty to speak up and hallenge it. "

I do that all the time, the problem is, the teacher refuses to listen and just itterates and reiterates things over and over again. My classmates get bored with watching this and start calling be difficult and tell me to be quiet.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Some kid who was home-schooled just... (2.00 / 2) (#4)
by tpck on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 11:35:16 PM EST

tpck voted 1 on this story.

Some kid who was home-schooled just won a spelling bee and a geography bee. I don't think that home-schooling and intelligence are related, but it does raise some interesting questions. ... I know that there is more to going to school than simply learning facts.

Spelling and geography bees are such wonderful ways to demonstrate intelligence, huh? So the kid spent all his time memorizing and drilling, instead of going to school. Whoopee.

Re: Some kid who was home-schooled just... (2.00 / 1) (#15)
by magney on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:26:23 AM EST

Well, it does demonstrate that parents can beat the schools at their own game. :) The interesting question is whether anyone, parents or teachers, can encourage genuine, independent reasoning...

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

Re: Some kid who was home-schooled just... (1.00 / 1) (#23)
by b!X on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:44:50 AM EST

FYI, today's edition of Salon has a story on homeschooling, sparked by these recent Bee wins by homeschooled kids.



[ Parent ]
Re: Some kid who was home-schooled just... (2.00 / 1) (#48)
by converter on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 12:57:27 PM EST

Training for the spelling bee, especially at the higher levels, involves the study of etymology and the languages from which the English vocabulary derives the majority of its roots. There is some rote memorization involved, just as there is with any other discipline, but a knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, etc. is much more important.



[ Parent ]
I'm a bernese mountain dog :)... (1.00 / 4) (#8)
by hooty on Mon Jun 05, 2000 at 11:41:56 PM EST

hooty voted 1 on this story.

I'm a bernese mountain dog :)

Agh. This isn't techy, nerdy, *or* ... (2.00 / 4) (#3)
by Velian on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 12:06:01 AM EST

Velian voted 0 on this story.

Agh. This isn't techy, nerdy, *or* cool. >:(

Re: Agh. This isn't techy, nerdy, *or* ... (2.00 / 1) (#16)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:35:26 AM EST

Does it really have to be? is my first question.

Even if you say 'yes,' I think that this relates to most 'nerdy' people, and techys often fall under the catagory of nerds.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Re: Agh. This isn't techy, nerdy, *or* ... (none / 0) (#19)
by rusty on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:11:13 AM EST

My first thought was, Geez. Look at the comments. Obviously people really care about this. I have to confess that I come from a family of teachers, and so this is kind of a personal interest-topic for me anyway. Maybe if we're lucky, my Mom will post something... I keep pointing her to these ed. articles (she's a teacher, BTW).

Anyway, no one can live on tech alone forever. And hell, we all know we're the smartest people around right now, right? Who better than us to hack on this question?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Agh. This isn't techy, nerdy, *or* ... (none / 0) (#62)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:33:29 PM EST

"I have to confess that I come from a family of teachers, and so this is kind of a personal interest-topic for me anyway."

I'd say that this is of personal intrest to most people on k5 seeing as most of the people here have either just finished with public school or are still there.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

The desire for homeschooling highli... (2.67 / 3) (#2)
by Imperator on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 12:18:49 AM EST

Imperator voted 1 on this story.

The desire for homeschooling highlights the poor state of public education. Theoretically, college-educated, professional teachers should provide superior education to that of untrained parents. However, (I'll restrict myself to the US to simplify this)

Middle class households of the last half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries could not keep up with the rising living standards of the day.
Women from those households, who could not respectably hold industrial jobs, worked as teachers. (And nurses, etc.)
Sexism ensured that a woman's pay would always be lower than that of a man performing equivalent work. Elementary education, now dominated by women, offered low pay.
In this century, when educated women became common in a variety of professions, the poor pay and low status associated with teaching tended to dissuade the smarter, more talented, and harder working women from the field of education. (Men thought of it as a woman's job, though this is another generalization of course.)
With a relative dearth of well-qualified teachers, salaries have remained dismal. (goto vicious_cycle)

Don't be fooled into thinking that all teachers are unqualified; many of them are quite the opposite. But the general trend is still to offer less fiscal compensation for elementary education than is necessary to compete for employees against other industries.
Of course, poor teachers aren't the only causes of homeschooling. In many places, education is a political game; that is to say, the education system is run by politicians, who don't pay attention to education. The funding is almost never sufficient. Schools in affluent neighborhoods are maintained while those in neighborhoods without a preponderance of politically-active residents are neglected. Curricula get modified to suit local desires (or more often ignorance, particularly wrt science). Depending on the budgeting scheme, experienced teachers may be very expensive to keep. Oh, and in case you had any glimmer of hope, an aging population is unlikely to support any diversion of their entitlement funds to education of their grandchildren.

qualified teachers (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:47:06 AM EST

"Don't be fooled into thinking that all teachers are unqualified; many of them are quite the opposite."

Most teachers are smart, and the state certification for public school teachers here (in texas) is quite rigorus to insure that teachers are smart. The problem is simply that many of the educators just don't really care anymore.

With the endless lines of meetings and assemblys, everything seems like a conglamorate where the work just piles up and students don't care about what their doing so many teachers are giving up on trying.

Just because teachers are educated, doesn't mean they care, and this is perhaps why home-schooling works, because parents tend to not give up on their kids as easily as teachers do.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Re: qualified teachers (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by Imperator on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 08:06:30 AM EST

Perhaps you've just been caught up in Bush's propaganda (regardless of his geographical expertise, all he's done for education is make the TAAS (standardized tests) easier to raise scores), but the standards of certification are not terribly high. Compounding the problem is that many schools can't afford certified teachers; permanent substitutes (i.e. uncertified and theoretically temporary) are cheaper and easier to find.

Certainly the bureaucracy discourages teachers (probably students too), but much of it is necessary when you consider everything the state needs to make sure is done by the schools. (How do you make sure every school district has vaccination records for their students? How do you know they're teaching at least the minimum knowledge expected from a particular course? How do you know exactly how many student-days they had last year, so you can pay them?)

Much of the problem with meetings is that, particularly in the larger schools, employee discipline has a habit of falling apart. Give teachers a form to fill out and ask them to return it at their leisure, and many will never bother. In an industry where employees are not in such short demand, constant insubordination will earn you a trip to the door. But are principals willing to fire teachers which they worked hard to hire? Many principals don't have any experience or degree related to management. (The unions are occasionally the problem, but more often the school administration doesn't have time to deal with the problem.) Of course, a fair amount of communication at meetings could be replaced by email iff every teacher had a computer with a network connection, every teacher was trained, and every teacher was willing to use it. ("I refuse to use this new-fangled \"wheel.\" I've never needed to use one before, and this whole axle thing is so complicated!")

Sorry, ranting again :)

[ Parent ]

Re: qualified teachers (none / 0) (#89)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 06:51:28 AM EST

Where I went to high school we had alot of problems with our teachers which made it impossible for me to know if my teacher was educated or not. For one, sexual hararassment is a big issue. Year before my freshman year two teachers Had to be fired because of the HUGE number of female students complaining about them. However, many of the problem teachers stayed. The two worst were fired, the rest stayed. The main PE/driver's ed teacher was openly sexist. He was the kind of man who believes women make up pms, migrains, and that we are all lazy/useless. Algebra teacher spent class time flirting with the chearleader. I'm not exagerating, at all. When he finallyg got to the business of teaching he ended up trying to play dumb math games that the class like, but didn't teach anything at all. Most of the teachers were overly concerned about how popular they were. They wanted to be in, with the in crowd, and didn't notice you if you weren't one of the crowd. Some of them were plain incompetent, and the ones who had a chance at being good teachers were cheated out of it. When the students are faces with so many bad teachers they lose respect for them all, and the potentially good ones are forced to try to teach a room full of chaos. Smaller class sizes would help, but changing the attitudes of teachers would help more. You simply can't have your teachers behaving as bad as or worse then thier students! One last thing. Violence in schools. Why the hell is everyone so surprised? The students who flip are the outcasts, the ones for who school was a daily venture into hell, where you are forced to do meaningless busy work while your contemporaries mock you for whatever it is that makes you different, and meanwhile the teachers are too busy playing at being cool to notice that one of thier students is reaching thier breaking point. I blame teacher, administrators, the media, and the many drugs that are little understood and commonly perscribed as anti-depressants. What do we really expect?

[ Parent ]
Not only are public schools in the ... (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by iCEBaLM on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 12:19:03 AM EST

iCEBaLM voted 1 on this story.

Not only are public schools in the US failing to work, but also up here in Canada aswell.

The reasons I think are thus: Large class sizes, Teachers who don't care about students just paychecks, underfunding, curiculum aimed for the lowest common denominator and a hostile environment.

Large class sizes (here frequently 30+) spread teachers too thin. They usually end up spending most of their time with the bottom end of the class and pretty much ignoring the top end, or often ignoring most of the bottom end and focusing on one or two students at the extreme bottom end.

More and more I found many teachers who just didn't care about the kids, all they cared about was doing their job. This I think is partly due to the fact that teachers are paid so low. They need to be paid higher and the qualifications set higher to get better quality teachers.

This leads into underfunding. Here there have been enormous education cuts to the point where there just aren't enough school supplies, teachers getting fired when class sizes are already 30+, sports teams being cancelled, etc.

It also goes without saying that the curiculum is obviously formed to allow the highest number of students to pass without trouble. Large amounts of repetition show this, which bore brighter students to the point of dreading school.

Adults and faculty members would love to think of school as a haven, where all the kids are safe. Well this is just not true, kids get picked on every day, and teachers turn a blind eye. I got pestered by this one kid in art class to the point of him pushing thumbtacks into my hand, there was a teacher and a teachers aid, everyone saw it, it was absolutely impossible to miss the shit he did, and when I finally went to the principal, she called the female teacher down who denied seeing anything. It really is a shame.

We really ought to be caring for our children a little better then this. It's disgusting.

-- iCEBaLM

I have been happy with my education... (1.00 / 2) (#14)
by extrasolar on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 01:14:39 AM EST

extrasolar voted 1 on this story.

I have been happy with my education. Indeed, it continues to challenge my capabilities---mostly in organization and study habits though. And then there are the subjects I have no interest in... :)

No one seems to have commented on t... (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by Inoshiro on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:04:35 AM EST

Inoshiro voted 1 on this story.

No one seems to have commented on the Canadian school system, which is very different from the "standardized testing" ideals of the US, EU, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Each province has control over its own accedemic goals. However, the Federal government has mandated that everyone be taught French in the English provinces until they graduate from elementary school. I'm not sure if Quebec has equal treatment of English, but considering the great hypocrisy surounding their "fair language laws" and language police, I doubt it.

Alberta's school system is composed of the follow: K-6 is elementary, 7-9 is Junior high, and 10-12 is senior high. In Saskatchewan, the system is a K-8 elementary school, with a 9-12 High school layout. In both cases, failing to graduate from high school is a rare occurance.

In the high schools (including both junior and senior in Alberta), you can choose electives besides the core required credits (i.e.: I need X credits in English to graduate, as well as X credits in a science elective, and X credits in a general elective). The actual number varies depending on the school system, and the available electives vary based on the school. (The high school I graduated from was a "technical" school housing motor mech, wood working, electronics (up to CMOS level), drafting, computer science, normal academics, general sciences [Bio, Chem, Phys], art [normal drawing, camera/photography, graphics work] -- it is one of the largest schools in Saskatoon).

There is standardized testing of students in the final grades of Elementary school, but I'm not sure what the results are used for. Entrance into Universities have certain goals, rather than relying on a set test. For example, to enter the college of Engineering at the University of Calgary, assuming you wanted a Computer Engineering degree, you'd need English 30, Math 30, Math 31 (this is Calculus), Chem 30, and Physics 30. If the average of these three classes is 77% or higher, you are given early admission. If it's 74% or higher, you are guaranteed acceptance. 70.0% to 73.9% is a "hold" mark. The classes mentioned (i.e.: Math 30, etc) are different in different provinces, so there is a bit of a fudge factor.

Overall, it seems a fair system. Classes are aprox 30 students in size, and grow or shrink depending on the course taught (many people drop calculus). Because there is no "interest" testing as in the UK/EU, people must decide their own likes and dislikes. This does lead to some (annoying) people who are clearly not suited for the class taking it and wasting people's time, but generally they drop it once they realise their mistake (although this is not always the case).



--
[ イノシロ ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#24)
by splice on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:02:39 AM EST

I wouldn't comment on the "hypocrisy" of our language laws; we're thaught english through primary grades, high school, and first and second terms of college. I'm getting sick of tired of hearing people comment on how we are hypocrites without them even bothering to get their facts straight.

[ Parent ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:30:17 AM EST

But it isn't mandatory!

[ Parent ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by Inoshiro on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 12:11:31 PM EST

On the contrary, there are a lot of people in Quebec who help spread this view. The "more white babies for Quebec" comments by Lucien, et all, did much to make the rest of Canada become uncomfortable with Quebec. I can understand fair language laws, too, but not a "language police" which smacks of things that Stalinist Russia might've done.

The fact is, most of Canada has a distorted view of Quebec. I expect I'm a bit off in my views on Quebec, just like I'm probably off on my views of most provinces (excepting the ones I've lived in). Perhaps the reason I do not like it is because of people who claim that language, and only language, is culture. Which is false. Language changes to fit the culture, not vice versa. From what I've seen on televisions shows talking about Quebec, Quebec's culture is not in any more jepordy than the Earth is of being hit by another dinosaur killer. It's a vibrant, pretty province, with a unique combination of architecture and environment.

I do not agree with forcing people into French in Quebec, when people are not forced into English elsewhere. Signs written in French in the rest of Canada would not be illegal, whereash English signs in Quebec are (depending on some rules, of course).



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#56)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:58:28 PM EST

Signs written in French in the rest of Canada would not be illegal, whereash English signs in Quebec are (depending on some rules, of course).

Forbidding French signs would be unconstitutional in the rest of Canada. However, Quebec can forbid English signs because they never signed the constitution, so it doesn't apply to them.

[ Parent ]

Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#25)
by jackyb on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:19:38 AM EST

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "interest" testing in the UK. I'm from England, and am just coming up to the third year of my degree (at Oxford Uni). Now, I don't think that I can say very much about state-run schools in Britain, because I was educated in a public school (which means a private school, not a public school), but the examination system in England is fairly standard so I can tell you about that.

The biggest difference between English education and other education, from what I can see, is that we specialise much earlier. At the age of 16 you take roughly 10 GCSEs, which will include all the standard subjects like English, Maths, Science, and so on, but immediately after this you specialise completely. The average person takes 3 A-levels when they are 18, and the universities make them an offer on the basis of the grades (A to E) they get. Brighter pupils in sympathetic schools can take more A-levels than that, but 3 is normal.

As a result, people go to university knowing a lot more about a smaller range of topics. Americans I have talked to are amazed by how much stuff I did at school rather than at university. As with all systems, it has its advantages and disadvantages - those who know what they want to do can do it early, but those who don't have to choose perhaps before they are ready to.



[ Parent ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#30)
by Imperator on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 08:12:40 AM EST

Yes, but proportionally fewer British go to college than Americans. Less spaces, less (overall) government support, less expectations. In America almost everyone is expected to attend college, though for many this means a junior college or technical school. This also means that many people in college are there because they're expected to attend a college, not because they have the academic ability or desire. (Better than people stopping after high school, though.)

[ Parent ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#36)
by jackyb on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:46:31 AM EST

But in America, you almost have to attend college because you're not taught as much at school. Our university entrants are better educated than yours. American universities are frequently amazed at how much English students know when they apply; this is not to say that the difference necessarily maintains itself after a couple of years of college, but one can easily leave school in England fully prepared to go on and do useful things.

So the education system is tiered differently. Note that I'm talking about students in England, not the whole of Britain; Scotland has a different education system. But your higher education starts at a lower level than ours. So if it's true that proportionately more Americans go to college, then that doesn't say anything about the general level of education between the two countries.

[ Parent ]
Re: No one seems to have commented on t... (none / 0) (#59)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:38:36 PM EST

Ok, I'll comment on the Canadian system, having been to school there for six years.

It's appalling.

Probably no worse than a lot of places, but I spent 90% of my time being frustrated at the utter repetiveness & pointlessness of it all. And this was at schools (public) with top academic reputations in the two provinces they were in (PQ & NF). Basically, as seems to be the case so often, there was no way of progressing if one wanted to. Anyone with the slightest bit of intelligence was stuck learning the same things every year over and over again. The maths teaching was particularly bad...

Obviously I don't expect teachers to help the brighter students at the cost of those who are struggling, but when teachers actively discourage students from learning (telling you off for asking for more work, or harder work, refusing to let you switch to more advanced classes), then there is something seriously wrong with the system.

This probably doesn't just apply to Canada. It is obviously a difficult issue trying to combine help for those who need it with challenges for those that want them, but there *must* be a way of doing it that doesn't involve home-schooling.

On a slightly different topic, presonally I do like the fact that the Canadian system allows you a broader range of choices until later on in your academic career. But despite the fact that on paper there were a variety of options, in practise, at least at my school, if you were smart you took science and maths options, and if you weren't you did the more arty courses. There were very few advanced language, literature options (and the level of English teaching was so appalling that I was completely put off wanting to study literature any more than necessary, despite being an avid reader. Studying "A Christmas Carol" at age 17, especially to the rather-less-than-in-depth level to which we did just didn't really present a challenge.) Being allowed to choose your own likes and dislikes is definitely a good thing, but the options need to be there in the first place.

There are so many interesting things out there. It's incredibly depressing to think what so many Canadian children (and probably those in many other supposedly well-educated countries) are missing out on.

[ Parent ]

"It was very disheartening to learn... (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by Commienst on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:09:28 AM EST

Commienst voted 1 on this story.

"It was very disheartening to learn that the requirements for being a teacher in Australia (and presumably the rest of the world) are so low. "

Dont be naive. Being a teacher is tough job and they get paid like $35,000 a year (here in the US, our garbagemen make more than that!). Who would want to go to college for 4 years to get that kind of pay? (Dont give me the its not about the money bullshit. If I was thinking of becoming a teacher I would personally try to find another job that I liked but with better pay.) There is a shortage of teachers around the world, this would just make the problem much worse.

The problem in my opinion is curriculms. If it's not on the curriculm your not gonna learn about it in school. Sometimes teachers rush their students at frantic paces just they can finish the damn curriculm. Sometimes a lot of students are too smart or too dumb for the selected curriculm, which just disenchants them to school.

The Valevictorian of my class (senior in high school) is not very dimwitted but the current school system is biased in favor of people like her. She studies 2 hours before every test then immediately after taking the test fogets everything, so she has to relearn everything for midterm and finals, does all her homework and projects. Meanwhile I never pay any attention in school yet on every test I manage to get between a 80-100. Wanna know why? Because in many of the core subjects (especially history) we learn the same crap over and over again (I know that's how you learn, repitition, but some people learn faster than others and get frustrated in the process). I am sick of school being a measure of obedience instead of intelligence.

necessary shadow government comment (none / 0) (#20)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:14:26 AM EST

I maintain that this whole teacher racket is controled by a race of alien super-beings from the planet we-must-make-feline's-school-experience-suck-ass and their motivation is ammusement at my frustration and agony.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Dammit, Fomzar, (none / 0) (#37)
by error 404 on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:49:33 AM EST

now you're going to have to format another one.

You can't go around letting them figure it out.

Next time this happens, we're going to have to glotz your duma.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
Re: Dammit, Fomzar, (none / 0) (#63)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:47:36 PM EST

I'd get scared, but I don't have a dictionary to figure out what 'glotz' or 'duma' mean.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Re: Dammit, Fomzar, (none / 0) (#72)
by Commienst on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:49:39 PM EST

Duh... Dictionary.com .

[ Parent ]
Re: Dammit, Fomzar, (none / 0) (#83)
by feline on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:59:40 PM EST

damn, smartass isn't in there :P
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Re: (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:24:33 PM EST

Your comment about the people who do best in school is right on the mark...

At my public school in Canada the standards were so low that about three quarters of each course was spent reminding all the dimwits what they were supposed to have done the year before. There was never any progress. The people who got the top marks were the ones who could parrot back precisely what the teacher had told us would be on the test. Myself I prefered to try and be a bit creative and so always got *good* marks, but never the absolute top because I refused to recite the expected answers.

The people who the teachers liked were the ones who could answer the questions on the test (rememebr precisely what three examples of symbolism the teacher said were in "MacBeth" or whatever), but who would be completely stuck if you tried to have a logical discussion about things. ("I can't believe they expected us to discuss our opinion on this, say, political subject. They never taught us that!")

Sorry, this is probably more bitter than it needs to be, but I feel that I learnt 90% of what I know from reading from a young age & finding out things on my own. My school, despite claiming to be one of the best in the province (and in fact it probably was...which is the scary part), did so little in the way of educating anyone about anything expect how to do well in school compared to the amount of knowledge that is out there to be learnt. It's very sad.

[ Parent ]

Mmm, recurring feature. :) ... (1.50 / 2) (#5)
by magney on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:21:49 AM EST

magney voted 1 on this story.

Mmm, recurring feature. :) I grew up nominally in the public high school system, but I was effectively home-schooled - my mom was a math teacher before she married, and I had a natural aptitude for math anyway. I pretty much directed most of my own studies, and breezed through the "required" high school courses. And then got to college and promptly flunked out, since I'd never properly formed the habit of doing homework on schedule. :) (I then re-enrolled at a less challenging uni and got my degree.) I don't really know what works or what doesn't. But these sorts of discussions are always interesting, and occasionally informative, so let's bring it on!

Do I look like I speak for my employer?

Thoughts (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by Dacta on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:04:35 AM EST

(I posted something like this when I was voting, but is disappeared. I think the story got posted before I actually voted, so my post didn't get added?)

I'm Australian and went to a private school. However, I was home schooled while overseas for 6 or 7 months, and I hated it. Sure I learnt some stuff quicker than at school, but it had all the problems of working from home (lack of separation between work/home, lack of social interaction) and I wasn't mature enough to handle it (hey, I was 12!)

Most of the people I know who were home schooled didn't like it either.

Here, in Australia, I think people home school mostly for religious, not education reasons (at least, that is the case in all the people I know). The public education system isn't great, but it is okay, and if you are a good student you can do well. The best public schools in my state (South Australia) - say a school like Norwood High constantly rate in the top five schools in the state on matriculation result, university placements etc.

That is despite the fact that many of the top private schools encourage students who aren't going to do well in year 12 not to apply for university, so they don't drag the schools university placement percentage down.

Teachers are somewhat underpaid, at least in the public system (you can make pretty reasonable money in the private system, though), but not as badly as you make out. You should bear in mind that a $30,000 starting salary is fairly good here. I graduated from computer science 2 years ago and started on $27,000. Yesm I was under paid, and I more than tripled that in 2 years, but it is unfair to compare CS & teachers because of the crazy market for programmers.

$50,000 is a pretty good salary, here, anyway.

Becoming a teacher isn't that easy, either. The course entry requirements at universty are (or were when I last checked) higher than most computing courses, and similar to most engeering courses. It certianly wasn't an easy option to apply for.

There are problems, of course. The lack of merit based promotion was one, but more serious is the teachers union continual objections over state wide standardised tests outside year 12, and especially the rating of schools based on those results.

At the moment, the only way to rate schools is by their results at year 12. The govenment wants to introduce standardised tests all the way down to primary school to make sure all students can read, etc, but the teachers don't want that because they say it will be used to rate schools unfairly. I can see their point to a certian extent - they don't take into account that some classes are probably easier to teach or whatever.

Drugs & Alcohol are a problem in all schools. There is no gun problem - I've heard of one gun related incident in SA schools, ever, and that was about 5 years ago.(Thanks to our gun laws!) Maybe knives are a problem in some places, but that's about as far as it goes.

Sport is important, but not in the same semi-pro way that school sport seems to be in the US. School Sport here is very participation based, and pretty healthy. We don't a a collage-sport system at all, though.

Anyway, back to the home schooling thing. Here, at least, I'd never go for it. I'd want the best education money can buy for my kids and here that means a private school simply because they are better funded than public ones. I would be confident that the better public schools could do a good job with the average student, and some would do a good job with the very bright student.

off-topic but helpful in nature (none / 0) (#66)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:10:52 PM EST

"(I posted something like this when I was voting, but is disappeared. I think the story got posted before I actually voted, so my post didn't get added?)"

Yeah, that happens iirc, rusty?
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Australian vs. US public schools. (2.50 / 2) (#21)
by inspire on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:45:46 AM EST

I was meant to follow up on my original comment way before this, but then it had already faded away into irrelevance :)

Having not gone to a US public school, I can't comment on the system firsthand. But the media portrayal of the US public school system makes me think that the whole schooling system is falling apart. I'm sure the reality of this is much, much less dramatic.

I was privileged enough to go to a selective Government school in Australia, which meant that I didnt see much of the knives/guns/drugs that the media seem to like to talk about. The worst in my school was a guy who bought a bunch of firecrackers.

There is a serious problem with teachers in Australia though. There is a shortage of teachers which no one wants to compensate for because they are not paid proportional to the amount of work they do.

Assessment... now theres a whole other sack of cats.
--
What is the helix?

Well, I've been to US public schools, and... (none / 0) (#35)
by marlowe on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:42:00 AM EST

they were pretty damn awful in the sixties. In the seventies they fell part. I think in the eighties and nineties the dust has been settling.

Saying "the schools are falling apart" is to come halfway out of denial. Once they start saying "the schools fell apart long ago", they'll be facing reality squarely.

(Ordinarily, I don't endorse spelling and grammar flames - too petty, and too likely to be triggered by innocent typos. But if anyone shows up trying to defend US public schools, I say we let him have it.)

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Not only and not all public schools are failing (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by ken on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:39:22 AM EST

Why not report on the education that students receive in private elementary and high schools? Private and parochial schools have lower qualifications in terms of education for their teachers, and pay them less. Does this affect the quality of education that these students receive? Shouldn't it? How do you measure the quality of education? If privately schooled children are better educated than their peers, how can we prove that this is not a product of the evident socio-economic status of their families, and the lifestyle this entails?

Remember, the US public school system as a whole may be failing, but there are many US public schools that are not. For example the high school that I attended. :) And I'm not just biased.

Re: Not only and not all public schools are failin (none / 0) (#87)
by vsigma on Sat Jun 10, 2000 at 11:06:50 AM EST

Well, to large a degree it depends on the private high school you may be talking about. I teach at an all girls, private catholic high school (with evil nuns!). Our facilities are horrendous, and the budgets are fairly blah. What the students have plenty of (in most cases) from their family is money. But they don't toss it this way, except for they have to pay, and even then they moan and groan. Most of them are spoiled brats who cannot deal with reality.

Well, at least the one that you and live in.

There are many public schools that do well with what they have. Its rather interesting that some of the places where you wouldn't think that a school would succeed is doing rather well with the fortunate help of 1) support of the parents, 2) communication between admin/faculty/staff and 3) non-idiotic administrators.

Private schools also foil their grading schemes as well to a certain degree (at least in the US anyway - we're generalizing, remember?) I have may friends who attended private schools and told me that they have been bumped or helped along by the school admins in changing their grades so that the school looks good to others. Rather screwed if you ask me, since the students will crash and burn in the future, since they never had to WORK for their grade.

vsigma

[ Parent ]
Father's choices (3.50 / 2) (#26)
by shomon on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:19:36 AM EST

I'm a dad, and one day my daughter will go to school, but yeah, as it's clear from the discussion, on one hand you have the problems of the public school, on the other, the airy fairy montessori and steiner schools. A third possibility is home teaching, but then the problem becomes having the patience to deal with pushing your child to work. This is a full time job in itself, and not knowing any better, I'd be prone to look for a pro to do it. The question is: are there any online courses, or is it possible there'll ever be one, that is able to educate a child in such a way that they will want to learn? And if that happens, what will happen to the child's social life, so much of which is usually formed at school anyway...

There should be a middle way.

Education is really stale, in all the countries I've lived in. And it's a shame, because a good education is the key to a great future. I'd love my daughter to get the love for learning the way I did, but that came only from a few good memorable teachers. How can I make sure that she finds the same?

The Japanese Educator, Tsunesaburo Makuguchi wanted to divide education into 3 places where it should happen: in the family (home teaching, online courses, education by example) in the community, and by the government.

These 3 are intrinsical, although the government one may have applied more a century ago when he wrote his notes. I would call that one society, or whatever has power to teach. But I think education should not be a confined square building, but everywhere a child goes, all around.

Sorry for the ramblings.. this post has made me think!

Ale

Re: Father's choices (none / 0) (#31)
by Imperator on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 08:19:07 AM EST

If you really want to learn to teach, there are plenty of books aimed at homeschool teachers. You can also pick up education textbooks from a local college bookstore, but remember that the challenges of teaching a whole class are different than the challenges of one student.

[ Parent ]
Re: Father's choices (none / 0) (#67)
by feline on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:14:12 PM EST

There's also the fact that some people have to work for a living and home-schooling pays very little. (iirc, I think some states'll pay parents that home-school, but not too very much).
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Re: Father's choices (1.00 / 1) (#32)
by Moebius on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:09:46 AM EST

Please tell me what's wrong with "airy fairy" Montessori schools. I went to one through 8th grade and found it to be very good academically. When I hit high school I found out many of my classmates were just learning things I had been doing for the past year or two.

[ Parent ]
Re: Father's choices (none / 0) (#74)
by ramses0 on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:23:58 AM EST

I've heard really good things about montessori schools too, but haven't had a chance to learn much about them. could you describe your experiences, or post a link to some good information?
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
Re: Father's choices (none / 0) (#77)
by shomon on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:40:50 AM EST

Nothing is wrong with them in essence. What I find wrong, is how distant they are from the workplace environment.

I'll try to explain:

I'm a member of the soka gakkai, a japanese buddhist organisation. It began it's life as a society for education based on the philosophies of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who was an educator who put together a lot of forward thinking notes on education in japan at the beginning of the last century. He didn't get it together because of WWII, but his successors have set up universities in LA and Japan based on his work.

In the collection of notes that I read, the aim of education gets a lot of thought: it is really the basis of society, and shouldn't be restricted. He defines the aim in the end as "happiness" but then defines happiness a lot too! This is just my interpretation but I think he meant that education should produce people who are satisfied and happy with their situation, as well as being creative and genuinely pro-active in all aspects of their daily life.

I've spoken at length with steiner school teachers, and I've read a bit on montessori, but I've never known in depth about going to one of those schools. The scariest thing is the price! I can only speak from my own experience with education.

I was in a kurt hahn derived IB school, an international college where we were all taught theory of knowledge, conflict resolution and international understanding as part of the curriculum, but I found that of very little use when I started university, and people there had been given a much more technical background, and shown, if anything, how to cram!

I'm sorry I called those schools airy fairy, but I got a lot of resent for modern education methods from that experience, and I still think that my college could have been more down-to-earth.

I got over it however. I've read montessori stuff, and I'm applying it a lot together with my partner, with my baby daughter and her son. I left that very theoretical university and found a more work-oriented course. That way it was easy to find jobs. There again I saw the problems: that old-fashioned theoretical university seemed to be geared toward knowledge, an unreachable tower of babel to some lecturers. Nothing to do with everything I needed to get a good job, and strictly limited to the academic side of things. Not a thought to social skills, etc, which are crucial in jobs I've been in.

With the course I'm in now, I know I'm a sale, a client to my lecturers and staff, who are in reality offering me a service, which they get paid for. I like this idea much more. They ensure that I get a good job, and in return they get my academic fees and good statistics!

That's the balance I'm talking about, although my present university is flawed too: going back to the Makiguchi notes, I'd say the aim of my university is similar to that of a big company which makes a product. In the process it's churning out a lot of people with the exact same abilities, some of whom don't actually like what they are doing!

I'd like to hear your views, even separately from this forum: my email address is ale at sift.co.uk : Do you think the montessory and steiner schools (or any schools for that matter) could provide my children with the aim of making them "happy"?




[ Parent ]
UK School Terminology (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:38:14 AM EST

In the UK ....

Public School ::= fee-paying school, usually famous and expensive and selective (e.g. Eton, Winchester)
Private School ::= an ordinary fee-paying school
Grammar School ::= selective school, no fees
Comprehensive School ::= non-selective school, no fees
State School ::= Grammar or Comprehensive school

Almost no children are home-educated in Britain. I only knew 3 children from one family who did, and their parents were drilling them to become super-musicians.



Why I wouldn't homeschool (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by goonie on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:56:13 AM EST

As somebody who's just delivered his last university tutorial (at least for while) perhaps I can add something a little closer to a teacher's perspective on home schooling.

Firstly, teaching is damned hard. Finding ways to make complex concepts accessible is very difficult to do - and being very good at a topic as a student doesn't necessarily mean you can teach it effectively. However, over time, you learn what techniques, analogies, and outright tricks you can use effectively to carry a message. Formal training (which I unfortunately did not really receive) would help even more. Parents typically have neither.

Secondly, students who were self-taught in the subject (programming, as it happens, but the comment still applies), often had bad habits. If those students then went on to teach others, those bad habits would be transferred. If you don't believe me, go grab an early 80's textbook on Commodore 64 BASIC and have a look at the programming style on display :)

Thirdly, teaching people to work together in groups is fundamental to students becoming productive in the workplace. This is very difficult to teach in a homeschool situation.

Finally, though I consider myself pretty well educated and well read, there is *no* way I could provide a complete secondary-level education to my future children. While I have the scientific and mathematical background, by the time my future children are reaching the end of secondary education some of that knowledge will be out of date (not so much that the science would be wrong, but emphases change and processes for finding solutions vary). There is no way that I could provide an acceptable introduction to literature or visual art.

For these reasons and others, I believe that home schooling is a poor option in all but truly exceptional circumstances. While I have no direct evidence of the American school system, the Australian school system, while not without flaws, is good enough.

Homeschooling will work if and only if... (1.00 / 1) (#38)
by marlowe on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:49:37 AM EST

the parents are smarter and more motivated than the typical public school teacher. On the face of it, this isn't asking much. But keep in mind: 1. One half of all parents are of below average intelligence. And the average isn't all that great. 2. The great majority of American parents are themselves products of the public education system. They were systematically taught to be stupid. Still, I think homeschooling is a good idea for a substantial minority of American families. At least 20%. As I've mentioned before, I'm intrigued by the notion of charter schools. I think maybe they could be the solution for everyone else. But I have no direct knowledge of the subject. Any testimonials out there? --- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: Homeschooling will work if and only if... (none / 0) (#69)
by Imperator on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 08:48:09 PM EST

Charter schools have several advantages. They have less bureaucracy. They have less regulations. They are encouraged to experiment. But they also have some important problems: they're often out for a profit, they're less accountable, they try stupid things.

[ Parent ]
Homeschooling as an open source project (none / 0) (#40)
by marlowe on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:56:37 AM EST

It's been pointed out elsewhere that teeaching is hard, and suggested that not all parents will be able to do it adequately. I agree, but don't see this as a sufficient objection to homeschooling.

If there's a problem, solve it. Let's develop a curriclum and methodology for home schooling that any parent can learn and use. And let's develop it jointly, and distribute it freely, both over the Internet. It works for software, and software is plenty hard. Why shouldn't it work for home schooling?

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Re: Homeschooling as an open source project (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by converter on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 12:18:20 PM EST

Check out the Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum. Robinson includes 22 CD-ROMs consisting mostly of scanned pages from texts that have fallen into the public domain. The emphasis is on reading, writing and grammar. Robinson doesn't include math texts, but they recommend Saxon.

The curriculum includes Win/Mac software for vocabulary drills, printing the texts, and viewing the included encyclopedia and dictionary. Some users have been encouraging the Robinson folks to port to Linux, but I haven't noticed any movement on that front.

As with most home school-oriented curricula, there is a strong biblical emphasis in both the texts and in the supplementary materials included by the publishers.

Robinson isn't open source, but it is affordable. We appreciate the self-teaching aspect of the curriculum, which amounts to "teach them to teach themselves."



[ Parent ]
Re: Why I wouldn't homeschool (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by End on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 10:37:37 AM EST

Well, you are asking for a response from a home-schooler in that post, and you just got one. I am 19 years old and was home-schooled but for two years in a private school. My mother has only a highschool education, yet she taught me to read and write at age four. Some of the others in my family did not learn so early, but a child who has not grown to hate learning will learn more in six months when h/she is ready than most "public-schooled" kids will learn throughout grade school.

"Finding ways to make complex concepts accessible is very difficult to do - and being very good at a topic as a student doesn't necessarily mean you can teach it effectively. However, over time, you learn what techniques, analogies, and outright tricks you can use effectively to carry a message. Formal training (which I unfortunately did not really receive) would help even more. Parents typically have neither."

I would suppose you must work harder to make concepts accessible to a group of twenty age-segregated students of widely varying aptitudes and temperaments. Making concepts understood not as hard when you are teaching your own kids (or brothers in sisters) one on one, when you know their foibles and learning idiosyncrasies to a much greater extent.

"Secondly, students who were self-taught in the subject (programming, as it happens, but the comment still applies), often had bad habits. If those students then went on to teach others, those bad habits would be transferred. If you don't believe me, go grab an early 80's textbook on Commodore 64 BASIC and have a look at the programming style on display :)"

I dare say I learned fewer and milder bad habits being schooled at home than I would have learned in a public school :-)

I don't know about your analogy with BASIC programming textbooks. We see problems with their programming practices now, but you can't expect us to think that those problems were a result of self-taught students teaching other students, more than the simple fact that computer programming was still a new and evolving practice. The non-structured programming of the early 80's was a natural evolution of the low-level assembly-language and machine-language programming practices of the sixties and seventies.

"Thirdly, teaching people to work together in groups is fundamental to students becoming productive in the workplace. This is very difficult to teach in a homeschool situation."

Learning to get along with your parents, brothers and sisters is a much more effective way to do this than placing twenty peers in a classroom.

"For these reasons and others, I believe that home schooling is a poor option in all but truly exceptional circumstances. While I have no direct evidence of the American school system, the Australian school system, while not without flaws, is good enough."

Well, you will forgive me I hope, if I cite some of our favorite examples of your "exceptional circumstances." Benjamin Franklin was one of these. So was Thomas Edison. So were Mozart, Phillis Wheatley, Alexander Graham Bell, Goerge Patton, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. There are others.

The American public school system varies in quality, mostly depending, of course, on the size of the city in which it is located, and also on which state it is in. In small towns, the parents are often more involved with the teachers, at least through seventh or eigth grade. However, they are all fundamentally flawed in that:

  • ...they teach students to equate rebellion and independence from family with virtue. (Not indepencence as in objectivity in thinking, but independence as in knee-jerk opposition to authority. I suppose no one is truly independent.)
  • ...they segregate students by age, removing them from older examples and putting them in a environment which encourages "lowest-common-denominator" behaviour.
  • ...they attempt to fit all students into the same time plan and method of learning.

For these reasons and others, I believe that public schooling is a poor option in all but truly exceptional circumstances.

-JD
[ Parent ]

Re: Why I wouldn't homeschool (none / 0) (#58)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:33:30 PM EST

nice to know that someone who has tremendous experience with public school life is so quickly prepared to dismiss them.

> Learning to get along with your parents, brothers and sisters is a much more
> effective way to do this than placing twenty peers in a classroom.
Quite the contrary, you spend far more time with your family than you do with classmates. As a consequence, it is much easier to understand their motivations and personalities. Try achieving the same level of understanding with peers who you interact with in a much more limited manner.

> Well, you will forgive me I hope, if I cite some of our favorite examples of your
> "exceptional circumstances." Benjamin Franklin was one of these. So was Thomas
> Edison. So were Mozart, Phillis Wheatley, Alexander Graham Bell, Goerge Patton,
> Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. There are others.
There are also many examples of talented people who left the formal educational process behind prematurely. Is this therefore reason to get rid of all schooling?

> The American public school system varies in quality, mostly depending, of course, on
> the size of the city in which it is located, and also on which state it is in. In small
> towns, the parents are often more involved with the teachers, at least through
> seventh or eigth grade.
Size of town has nothing to do with the level of parental involvement in a child's education. Value of education has everything to do with it. Sadly not everyone values education anymore.

> they teach students to equate rebellion and independence from family with
> virtue. (Not indepencence as in objectivity in thinking, but independence as in
> knee-jerk opposition to authority. I suppose no one is truly independent.)
??? I really don't understand what you're trying to say here. My teachers in public school encouraged independent, objective thought and often took time to promote constructive discussion of differing opinions. There certainly was no indoctrination of the idea that family == bad. And there certainly was no "Now go out and be good little anarchists" mentality among the teachers.

> ...they segregate students by age, removing them from older examples and
> putting them in a environment which encourages "lowest-common-denominator"
> behaviour.
as opposed to the far superior method of segregating by family, thus reducing the diversity of opinions and experiences available to learn from? a superior plan, in some ways, would be to group based on student abilities, however that raises two questions:

1. How do you rate the critical abilities?
2. How do you keep from creating a meritocracy (and the subsequent jealousy and discord) in said learning environment?

Grouping students based on age may not be the best solution available, but there really is no good solution.

[ Parent ]
Re: Why I wouldn't homeschool (none / 0) (#85)
by End on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 06:02:21 PM EST

"nice to know that someone who has tremendous experience with public school life is so quickly prepared to dismiss them."

Ah well, you don't have to be a product of the system to see its flaws. You just look at what comes out the other end.

"Quite the contrary, you spend far more time with your family than you do with classmates. As a consequence, it is much easier to understand their motivations and personalities. Try achieving the same level of understanding with peers who you interact with in a much more limited manner."

I know many who are/were public schooled. Their families hardly ever eat a meal together. Many of them are latchkey kids who do their own cooking and go to the mall before their parents ever get in the door. Public schoolers mold their schedule and affections more around their peers than around their families. They spend too much time interacting with people as or less mature than they are.

"as opposed to the far superior method of segregating by family, thus reducing the diversity of opinions and experiences available to learn from?"

You are assuming the opposite extreme, that home-schooling means never associating with kids your own age. Home-schooling can easily give a good balance of both, as opposed to the status quo I have described above.

"a superior plan, in some ways, would be to group based on student abilities, however that raises two questions:
1. How do you rate the critical abilities?
2. How do you keep from creating a meritocracy (and the subsequent jealousy and discord) in said learning environment?
Grouping students based on age may not be the best solution available, but there really is no good solution."

Actually, any solution would be better than grouping by age, including your meritocracy idea. What is a meritocracy but people who are given status within their field based on thir merits in that field? What's wrong with that? If the idlers will be pouting because they are not as good as the industrious students, it is better to let them do it in a seperate classroom more suited to their abilities rather than hold the smart ones back to prevent them feeling bad.

You reveal a large flaw in your thinking in this, that was described by Lewis in Screwtape Proposes a Toast:

"The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be 'undemocratic.' ...At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages or mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have..."parity of esteem." ...The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval's attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT."

You simply cannot claim it is best for all kids to be shuffled through a predetermined progression of learning in the same schedule. They are vastly more different than you think. It is not hard to teach a kid to read and write, but you have to understand them. I have seen some kids go illiterate until they were nine or ten, and then learn in a matter of months and be reading perfectly. Yet these same kids were long since done with multiplication and division by that time. It's just as individual as physical growth: it goes by haps and eventually it all evens out. Public school is like taking all kids and stretching out the short ones on racks, squeezing the tall ones in vices, stuffing fat in the skinny ones and starving the plump ones, all to make sure they grow at what is termed a "proper, normal" rate!!

-JD
[ Parent ]

Everyone is the same in the eyes of the state! (3.30 / 3) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:22:25 AM EST

Here in Minnesota they have a new "profile of learning" system for measuring performance. It was supposed to be about making sure kids learn.

But, because just testing is unfair. It includes so many "packets" of activities that it basically defines the whole curriculum. And since everyone must complete the packets it makes so much busy work that any AP kids just get stuck behind doing the same busy work.

The bright kids get screwed.

Some of the requirements are actually too high. (3.70 / 3) (#39)
by LetterJ on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:51:41 AM EST

"It was very disheartening to learn that the requirements for being a teacher in Australia (and presumably the rest of the world) are so low."

There are different types of requirements. Your initial statement indicated your dismay that students have a greater mastery of subject matter than your teachers. In this respect (subject matter knowledge), yes, the requirements are low.

Unfortunately, in other respects, the requirements can be too low. My degree is in English. My focus was on writing and linguistics. In order for me to get my degree, I needed 48 English credits. For a while, I thought about teaching. However, when I discovered that in order to get the license endorsement for the State of Minnesota, I needed to take the Education *MINOR* which is 52 credits, I decided that it wasn't worth it. I wasn't alone in my decision. Most of the best English majors decided not to go into teaching. What that meant was that many of the future English teachers were 2nd and 3rd tier English majors as far as subject matter expertise were concerned. But, they were willing to put in the effort for the higher requirement for the education part of the degree.

And, if the problem is missing subject knowledge, then home schooling isn't the answer either. Why? The same students who complain that their teachers don't know anything also complain that their parents are clueless too. Most parents are going to have holes in their subject knowledge as well.

My method in high school was to supplement what I did in school with my own learning. I did what was necessary in school and did other reading and learning in the other time both in school and home.

Actually, my parents offered to home school me, but I looked at it like this. I'm trying to learn everything I can. Sure, I know more than some of the teachers. But on MOST things academic, I knew more than my parents. Most of the teachers knew more than me, and I looked at them as a resource I wouldn't have at home. At home, sure I'd have had access to the library and (if I was young now) the Internet. But, if I was in school, I would still have access to all of those resources PLUS the teachers. I've found that most of the students claiming to out-understand their teachers do so in only one or two subjects, usually computers. Well, I'm sorry, but complete education is more than being able to twiddle digits. You're telling me that at 14-16, you know more about Economics than the teacher down the hall who has at least a B.S. in Econ? That you know more about Chemistry, Physics and Biology than those with B.S.'s and M.S.'s in those sciences? If so, where's your undergrad transcript, because you should have one if you're that big of a genius.

Education is about seeking out the knowledge. Sometimes it's in a lecture, but sometimes it's not. Sometimes you have to put forth some effort to get the info from the teacher. Tell them you're interested in understanding a particular subject and ask for a recommended reading list. Many of these teachers used to be excited about their subject matter, but haven't had a student really interested in it for years. That doesn't take much time. In fact, it can be done after class. Don't think the teacher will write you a pass to your next class for asking about their subject? Think again. Many of the teachers in my school were regarded as clueless by most students. I found out otherwise by being interested in their subject. Note that it wasn't necessarily what they were teaching, but it was what they studied in college.

Arrogance is the biggest roadblock to learning.

And yes, though I have a degree in English, there are grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors in this. However, if I was to edit this to a professional level, it wouldn't make it into this discussion.
"If you can't explain it to an 8 year old, you don't understand it." - Albert Einstein
Re: Some of the requirements are actually too high (none / 0) (#68)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:34:24 PM EST

Hi, regarding teaching requirements in Minnesota...

I'm currently a student at the University of Minnesota (Computer Science is my major). I attended high school in Fargo, North Dakota. I think the difference here is that you're comparing the (which we are assured are lax) teaching requirements in Australia to those of Minnesota, which you note are quite high. I think it's a matter of culture.

Here, in the Upper Midwest [1], there is very strong support for education, especially in Minnesota. Even for smart kids -- just about anyone can go to college for free through the Post-Secondary Option (PSO) program while they are still in high school. Being a high schooler in Fargo and having friends who were going to college for free just across the river in Minnesota was quite annoying! Minnesota also has a very strong committment to the arts (as did the Fargo school system), so kids are also getting a well-rounded education. So, while I understand the complaining about high school by geeks that gets posted to Slashdot, K5, and the rest of the 'net, I don't think it's as bad "up here" in the Midwest. High School was hell for me, too, and I got made fun of plenty, but there was a strong community of smart kids to hang out with, and plenty of advanced classes for me to take. For that I am glad.

Now, that's not to say that teachers don't get paid crap, here, but I think the educational system is better than average.

Of course, I certianly wouldn't mind if it were better. I'm not old enough where I have to think about where my own (hypothetical) children will have to go to school, so I'm not sure if I'd go public or private (definately not religious, though :) school. I'd be interested in home schooling, but I doubt I'll have the time. Certainly I'd like them to be able to learn more languages than I did -- a major failing of US education, IMHO.

Luke

[1] "How do you know you live in the Midwest? You measure distance in 'hours'." :^)



[ Parent ]
Re: Some of the requirements are actually too high (none / 0) (#76)
by LetterJ on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:36:40 AM EST

Yeah, the requirements in MN are probably much higher than other parts of the US. However, the original posted article described the requirements in AU and said presumably in the rest of the world as well. I just wanted to point out that sometimes setting the requirements too high can cause as big of a problem.
"If you can't explain it to an 8 year old, you don't understand it." - Albert Einstein
[ Parent ]
Messed up priorities (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by octos on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 10:45:17 AM EST

I think the major problem with most schools is that they are too focused on testing. When I went to school (in Texas), the teachers only taught what was on the TAAS test that you had to pass to graduate. That wal all they worked on. My other problem with modern education is that school is information regurgitation and' as stated earlier. obedience training. History is a good example. We always had to memorize dates and people, but never discussed history beyond the simplistic (possibly revisionist) hows and whys. The same can be said for most other classes. You learn all the facts and mechanics but you never learn how to apply any of it to your life. Please remember that I am speaking generally.

I think I have a unique educational experience to share that usually isn't taken seriously-- Trade schools. I attendend trade school to become a gunsmith and it was one of the best learning experiences I have had. I liked not having all the extra classes that colleges make you take and I went to school 40 hours a week. It was very much like apprenticeship. After a year, I was doing professional-level work and graduated with honors.

The problem as I have tried to illustrate is that education lacks relevance. The only thing I learned in public school was memorization and it completely failed to prepare me for the real world. As a final example, everyone has to complete math courses usually ending at the algebra level, but school never devoted any time to "real world" math like balancing a checkbook, figuring intrest, or understanding credit. I have my parents to thank for that.

Re: Messed up priorities (3.00 / 1) (#44)
by Dacta on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:13:27 AM EST

As a final example, everyone has to complete math courses usually ending at the algebra level, but school never devoted any time to "real world" math like balancing a checkbook, figuring intrest, or understanding credit

Frankly, if you can do algebra, you can do basic accounting. Sure you don't learn it, but if you have learnt the skills, you can pick it up easily.

It's the basic skills which an education should give you, not the ability to do a job for money. That's what you (like you said) go to trade school for.

[ Parent ]

Re: Messed up priorities (none / 0) (#70)
by Imperator on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:06:22 PM EST

Yes, but unfortunately personal finance is an important topic that many people simply don't understand. They get into debt and become slaves to the interest. It is a distraction from academics, but it's one of those things that really would be worth the short time it takes to teach. (Schools already teach about nutrition and other health issues, and those programs have generally proven to be very effective.)

[ Parent ]
Re: Messed up priorities (none / 0) (#75)
by Zer0 on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:42:19 AM EST

In Australia the second lowest (or 4th highest heh) math in high school is "Maths in Society" where you do topics such as Finance/Accounting, Computer Math (they teach BASIC), Space Maths etc..

[ Parent ]
Re: Messed up priorities (none / 0) (#81)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:36:03 PM EST

I graduated from Texas public schools, and my mother, several aunts, grandmother, and other relations proudly teach/taught in various elementaries, secondaries, and colleges. The problem with US schools, and Texas in particular, is not that the teachers teach toward the standardized tests (as if that's all they want to do), but that the administration/legislature ties all funding and school/teacher evaluation to the standardized tests. The school districts literally force the teachers to focus almost solely on the TAAS test in Texas, since that is the basis of their funding. They design their curriculum to focus on the TAAS, and ram it down the teacher's throats. The districts and the state school boards also tie TAAS to the teachers performance evaluation, so that there is a monetary penalty for your students not passing TAAS.

My mother teaches first grade in one of the poorest districts of the city, and she gets the kids who have very bad home lives, non-existent parental support, and discipline/mental problems. She really fights for her kids, and makes sure that either her kids can read/do math on grade-level or above, or that they get tested for special ed or for tutoring/mentoring.

Most teachers really love to teach, and if the beauracracy would let them, they would. But people overburdened with unecessary paperwork, useless curriculums designed by people who have never taught, parents who are either apathetic or downright hostile, low pay (I make more than my mom, and she has a master's in education and has taught for 30 years) simply get beaten down by the system.


[ Parent ]
Re: Messed up priorities (none / 0) (#88)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 06:28:26 AM EST

What you say is right, about memorization. I'm newly graduated from high school, all of this is fresh in my mind. I attended running start, and for once I learned things in a way that made sense. A good example is history, in high school you learn dates, names, places. In WA state you have to take pacific northwest history, US history, and world affairs, or world history. In that order. Nobody ever stopped to think, pacific northwest history makes NO sense if you don't know US history, and US history make NO sense if you don't know world history. But its still taught in the wrong order? there is no excuse for this. History is great, but dates/names/places memorization will only make you hate it. The only point in teaching history is so someone can understand what is going on right now, but how can you if all you know is that some war happened in some place at some time? Thats just one example, we get all these weird new ideas for how to teach, but we could improve ALOT by simply changing Very small things. Simply reodering something, testing based on comprehension, with more essay questions instead of multiple choice, teachers explaining things. Learning is easy when something is explained, because it makes sense, it fits

[ Parent ]
too lazy to log in... oh well. (4.30 / 3) (#43)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 10:57:34 AM EST

I have two quick comments. First, homeschooling is only an option for families with (a) two parents (or maybe extended family with a clue), and (b) with one parent making a living wage. These two things weed out a significant fraction of the US population. I think the idea of a "group school" of four or five families is a great idea, though.

Second, I've been a teaching assistant for a freshman-level science class at a university with a huge education program. A significant percentage of Ed majors at this university have serious problems dealing with science concepts, and even basic mathematics concepts. And I'm not talking trig and calc, but FRACTIONS. I'm sure I'm offending sombody by saying this, and I realize it's a gross generalization of teachers, but the pool of educators in the US seems to be rather weak. Part of the problem is the abysmal salaries of teachers. Who wants to deal with chaos for $25K/year??

Unfortunately, (US) public education (certainly high school) is now little more than day-care for teen agers. There's plenty of blame to go around on that score. Parental laziness is a big part of it - how many of your parents EVER went to a PTA meeting? Politicization of the educational system is another. Reluctance to maintain some sort of code of ethics and discipline is another. (And I mean *real* ethics and discipline, like everyone must be civil and respectful to fellow students and teachers, not everyone must be "normal".)

Lots of problems. No easy answers. Maybe things really do need to start with students. There's this thread in our culture that overemphasizes rebellion and cynicism, and fighting the system. That's certainly a big thread of places like www.hellmouth.org. It'd be great if a lot of that youthful energy could go into changing the system instead.

--SoVLF



Teacher=Idiot (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by Zuid on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:34:07 AM EST

As someone who spent my years at school bored out of my brain and desperately wanting to get home so I could actually learn something, I have to admit that I have a huge grudge against teachers and headmasters alike.

After a few years out of the establishment, though, I have realised that while I would still be likely to throw garbage at any of my former teachers if I were to see them in the street purely through my disgust that they are using up all my oxygen, the problem is that they were losers.

I mean that in a very real sense. As mentioned in the posted article, teachers in Australia are quite seriously the duds of their final years in high school. It wasn't long ago that to become a teacher in Australia you didn't even need to go to university. You went to what is now known as TAFE but was at the time called College, which is essentially a trade school. While TAFE qualifications are recognised as being the best you can have in many areas, academics simply aren't one of those areas.

There is no prestige in being a teacher. It is a mug's job done only for a love of teaching or the fact that your leaving mark wasn't good enough to get you in to nursing, and unfortunately the former option is far too rare.

The solution isn't taking kids out of schools, it's fixing the schools. If suddenly teachers' wages doubled and the entrance requirement became only slightly lower than that of, say, vetinary science, we would very quickly have the sorts of brains we really *want* teaching kids. A program like that instituted by Newcastle Uni for their medical degree whereby applicants are interviewed and their suitability to the job is assessed and considered as important as their academic ability would also be quite beneficial in this situation.

How ridiculous is it that society entrusts the education and well being of its young to people not considered worthy of a decent wage.




Re: Teacher=Idiot (none / 0) (#71)
by Christopher Biggs on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 09:56:35 PM EST

I went to public school in Australia for all my schooling.

Thinking back, I don't recall any bad teachers. I disliked some of them at the time (oddly enough, they were the ones I came to respect the most), and my fourth grade teacher was a hard faced bitch, but there were none that made me think "this person is a failure".

Yes, some of my teachers' only qualifications were 1-year diplomas.

Back here in the present, my wife is a maths/science teacher. She has a degree in physics, worked in medicine (found it depressing) and changed to teaching.

As far as I can see, the problems of the public school system are

  1. Poor funding
  2. Inability to cope with appalling discipline problems (i.e. the bad students ruin it for the good ones, and there's nothing the teachers can do to them)
. There are no easy answers to those problems.

Given the state of the public school system, I would be reluctant to send my children to a public school in Australia.

[ Parent ]

I've been a teacher... (3.00 / 1) (#49)
by FFFish on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 01:18:00 PM EST

...and I'm not confident that I'd put my (hypothetical) kid into public school. I'm also confident that I would *never* attempt home-schooling.

The problem with home-schooling is that there's just *no* way to provide the breadth of education that's required these days.

It's the same problem that public schooling has, only the other way: public schools are attempting to provide too much breadth.

I'm friends with a home-schooling family. They're using the latest computer technology to present self-paced educational programs, they're extremely well-supported by the school district (my province has a "school district" that specializes in supporting home schooling; we've a lot of remote communities with no schools at all), and they make good use of local resources.

Nonetheless, the kids aren't reading at grade-level, their math skills don't seem to be up-to-snuff and they certainly aren't getting the range of information that they'd get in a public school.

On the other hand, the public schools spread themselves too thin, trying to be everything for everybody. Maybe sex ed shouldn't be taught to grade four kids. Maybe they should eliminate the year-end camping trip. Perhaps the computer component is really quite a waste of time in the elementary grades. And yet there are families where these are the only ways that the kids will experience these things.

In the end, I'd send my kids to a private school. The teachers would have the resources and support to be able to present a broad enough range of ideas and subjects, while at the same time they wouldn't be forced to teach a lot of crap that really should be the parent's responsibility (IMO).

It's not a cut-and-dried argument. There are fundamental flaws in all three choices...

Re: I've been a teacher... (none / 0) (#52)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:28:37 PM EST

I did the private school thing (okay, parochial, there is a difference) for a while and can honestly say that I found it worse than the public school I later attended. All course work was presented with a strong bias towards the particular sub-sect of Christianity that runs the school. It went so far as this prime example:

When the Challenger blew up, my third grade teacher asked the class "Now class, why was God right to destroy those sinners?".

While public schools are more dangerous in some areas than others, and the quality varies greatly, I would much rather send my kids (should they ever exist) to public schools and suplement their in school education with educational out-of-school activities.

[ Parent ]
Why We Homeschool (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 01:42:21 PM EST

I dunno about Australia. I'm a provincial American. ;->

We homeschool for a very simple reason: we are members of a persecuted minority, required by law to register with the government. (We haven't.) The schools, here and apparently in many places, are requiring the students to sign pledges to turn us in and to fill out surveys designed to locate us. If the government finds that we haven't registered, our children will be taken from us and we will be imprisoned.

Recently, a political rally was held in DC, which we attended in opposition. Rocks were thrown at us and we and our children were personnally attacked several times. Chants were taken up such as "I hope you are shot dead!" My wife was repeatedly called a slut, a whore, trash.

You think I'm insane, since your unquestioning belief (taught in the schools) is that "it can't happen here." That's why your schools aren't teaching my children.



Re: Why We Homeschool (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by dash2 on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 01:57:41 PM EST

Well, go on, which minority??
------------------------
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
[ Parent ]
I'll bet I know (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by Demona on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 01:30:35 PM EST

Firearms owner.

[ Parent ]
Re: Why We Homeschool (none / 0) (#84)
by bmetzler on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 05:08:49 PM EST

Well, go on, which minority??

Illegal Alien

-Brent
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
[ Parent ]
Which minority? I've never heard of registering (none / 0) (#78)
by marlowe on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:12:45 AM EST

...other than for convicted sex offenders.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
A dumb idea I had (2.00 / 1) (#53)
by goosedaemon on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 02:47:37 PM EST

In the days of school I thought of an interesting idea-- to bring about more student-to-student (maybe a good analogy is client-to-client, and student-to-teacher is client-to-server? ) communication, I'd start a sort of underground journal which discusses stuff relevant at the moment in school (or in the real world ). For instance, a big math test coming up might dictate an article about fractions and percents, and maybe some real-world uses.

Of course, the idea was to promote CTC, so other students would be more than welcome to contribute and talk and all that.

...it never happened. Not due to administrative action, I just didn't do it. :p

Anyway, that's my two cents worth of idea.

me (2.00 / 1) (#55)
by timmyd on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:24:09 PM EST

I decided to go to a public school so I would have less work and more time to teach myself what I would actually need to know and stuff that I would use in real life. However, going to this public school has only hindered my studying because of all the stupid meaningless busy work that I have to do---and all those @#$! summer reading books!!! If I had homeschooled myself from the start I would probably be smarter.

Homeschooled and happy (3.50 / 2) (#64)
by nuntius on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:58:15 PM EST

I was homeschooled from 7th grade until college (no homeschool college for me :-).

Anyway, there were things I disliked about the experience--most of my former friends stayed in public school, no designing video games in English... However, there were also benefits--no cafeteria food, no dumb teachers (for the books, Mom took a couple years of college, and Dad is an aero engineer), and no busrides. The big things which I missed and couldn't make up were stuff like not having easy access to lab equipment... We were fortunate enough to get a good microscope and decent chemistry set, but many folks choose to homeschool because they don't have the funds for private schooling.

The BIG issue
The main issue homeschoolers face is similar to the one we *nix users, GPLers, and other techies face--the government deciding what we want, restricting our freedoms.

I attended kindergarten through 6th grades. My younger sister attended through (I think) 3rd grade. We started homeschooling largely because I could read at that age, but my sister couldn't. When my parents started researching why, they found its was due to a number of reasons (off-topic, e-mail me [no spam] for info). Anyway, they asked the school to teach my sister some fundamentals and the school refused (meeting state and federal regulations). We therefore left (like geeks leave M$ for *nix).

Since I've come to college, I now know why teachers are often so bad. Here at least, they generally are not the academic 'cream of the crop.' They're generally at the maturity level of 'wishing well to the world' by day and drinking by night (slight exageration).

Anyway, its time that the schools start listining to the people again--these regulations coming from government authorities often prevents schools from catering to their populations. Also, as some have noted, the "smarter" kids often get held back in school. Regulations help ensure that. By establishing standardized testing, the government has established for schools what needs to be taught.

The catch is that many will never master algebra, much less take it. The test commitees know this, and therefore make it (and all "advanced" topics) a low test priority. The result is watered-down tests. This indirectly translates into watered-down classes as teachers teach to the test. Indirectly, standards often tend to embrace everyone getting the 'least common denominator' for an education.

I know today I was informed that my Probability and Stats 461 used to include more material until someone in the department's comittee noticed that the ABET standard didn't require it. This material is now in the (optional for my major) Probability and Stats 861. A solid case of standards watering down even college courses.

Oh well, thanks for tuning in this far. I'll just end with this: Homeschooling isn't for everyone. Its a great stress on the family that will either bring it together or tear it apart (or both). It does however let you 'reap what you sow,' and labor thrown into it won't be wasted.

For the world as a whole. I don't think homeschooling is the answer. I think a variation on private schooling is. Its known as the voucher system.

Before I stray further off-topic,
Thanks again
D Herring

Technical Schools/Academic Schools (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by FFFish on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:04:36 PM EST

One theme that hasn't been explored in the discussion yet is the lack of technical schools.

Back in the fifties/sixties, North America had a two-way post-junior-high school system.

The geeks were streamed into academic schools, where they learned geeky science, arts and such. They were to become researchers and developers, advancing our culture, our industries and our knowledge.

The less-academically inclined (oh, okay: the dummies, then) were streamed into technical schools, where they learned a blue-collar profession and became the grunt that turns research into product, forms the foundation for our culture and greases the wheels of our industries.

There wasn't a lot of stigma attached to either route. Sure, you'd prefer to be a desk jockey... but, then, that sort of life can be unattractive, so maybe learning to do something with your hands would be kind of nice.

Anyway, those godless commie bastards threw a satellite into space and completely freaked out the American government. JFK's reaction: we need more geeks, pronto!

The end result has been, I think, disasterous.

There's a shortage of good blue-collar workers. We've got more geeks than we have geek jobs for, and a massive social-funded structure that encourages yet more people to enter post-secondary education to get useless bits of fancy paper, instead of a skill set that will get them work.

We've got a class system that looks down on blue-collar workers -- the guy who's holding down a $60K job at the GM auto plant don't get no respect from the pencil-necked Arts geek who's slinging coffee at the local Starbucks!

We have a *lot* of kids who are struggling through high school, learning shit that will do them *no* good in Real Life: when was the last time you needed to know anything about trignometry? These are kids who could be feeling good about themselves, if only our culture were supportive of car mechanics, draftsmen, construction workers.

We need to bring trade/technical schools back. They lead to excellent jobs: jobs that pay well, have set hours, tend to be unionised (and thereby pay benefits that your Starbucks coffee-slinger can only dream of), and...

Here's the PRIMARY POINT...

...let a fellow raise a family in pretty decent comfort, and perhaps even lets one parent stay home to actually raise their kids instead of having the poor buggers raise themselves in trouble-making hoodlum cliques.

Okay, so my thesis here is a little disjointed. But I think the underlying message is accurate, and needs to be taken seriously by the arses that run our governments...

selective schools in Australia (3.00 / 1) (#73)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:55:54 PM EST

When I was in year 4 of primary school, the teachers gathered together the smartest students and put them through a test to see if they could get into a selective school. I made it though the selection process and the next year I started going to "Opportunity class". I can't really tell you the difference between "Opportunity class" and a normal public school. The biggest difference was probably that all the students in my class were smart. We were all given a placing in the class based on maths and english tests that we did every week.

At the end of primary school half of the class decided to go to a new selective high school. We applied, did the tests and were accepted. High school had a lot more students. It went from 2 classes per grade (only one of them selective) in primary school to 6 or 7 classes.

With the increase in the number of students there was a also an increase in the gap between the best students and the worst.

A selective school wouldn't be much fun for an average student. The worst students at my high school did really poorly at the HSC. They probably got all their confidence in their intelligence knocked out of them. Most students however did really well.

Of course doing well in tests doesn't mean doing well in real life.

In my last year of high school they started introducing accelerated learning so that exceptionally bright students could complete their schooling at a faster rate. Some of those students were really peculiar. I don't think they would have lasted long in a normal school.

Give public schools more resources ($) (2.50 / 2) (#79)
by johan on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:21:49 AM EST

It's a pretty obvious suggestion, but i think public schools need more money -- A significantly larger amount of money. People complain about the quality of teachers a lot. Schools would have a better pool of applicants if they paid $50,000 per year instead of $25,000-30,000. That's just a fact of our capitalist economy. You want really excellent teachers? Offer $70,000 per year.

Sounds like a lot of money, right? Well it is. But prisons cost a lot, too. The State of California now spends more money on prisons than on its Universities. As a society, the U.S. is spending its resources locking up its citizens, rather than educating its children and young adults.

Of course, most of us shudder at the thought of doubling our property taxes (or paying more rent) to cover the increases necessary to fix public schools. In many parts of the country, if the public schools were "fixed," people would save a lot of money they would otherwise spend on private K-12 schools, but i think there would need to be a net increase in the cost of education for most everyone. Unfortunately, much of the wealth of our society is not held by your average shmoe in homes but in the business investments of the super-rich. ("Super-rich" refers to the top 1% of the wealth-holders who are worth at least $2.35 million.) So much of the super-rich's assets are not a significant source of taxes for public school districts.

In 1992, the wealthiest 1% of the country were estimated to have controlled anywhere from 22% to 42% of ALL of the wealth in the country. (Use the lower figure if you count your social security pension and the original cost of of the appliances in your house as part of your wealth. Use the 42% figure if you don't.) The disparity is much larger than found in Canada and most European countries. In 1992, the super-rich controlled roughly 3 times more than what they did in 1976.

After about 45 minutes of Google searches, the best discussion of the U.S. inequality of wealth i could find is this article. Another factor not mentioned in that article is that corporate taxes have dramtically decreased in the last 50 years, down from ~31% to ~11%.

Ultimately, by allocating more resources we can fix public education. But the U.S. has the deeper problem of inequality of wealth that makes that increase hurt the poorest 99% of us a hell of a lot more than the richest 1%.

Yeah, throw more money at the problem! (none / 0) (#80)
by marlowe on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:53:42 AM EST

That's always worked in the past.

Oh, wait a minute. No it hasn't.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Schooling issues (US) (none / 0) (#86)
by vsigma on Sat Jun 10, 2000 at 10:43:50 AM EST

Hi. As a ceramic engineer/QA silly person turned teacher for the past 2 years in an attempt to change the world to do something positive - these are the conclusions I have drawn, along with some commentary on some of the things I saw related to this story...

- Curriculm: I teach in New Jersey, and there are state mandated 'things' that we have to get through, as well as things that we, as teachers would like to get through. The unfortunate thing is that standardized testing that is so prevalent these days slices down on the stuff that we would like to get through (the fun stuff, and not just the basic material). Teaching AP Chem/honours Chem/AP Physics (A-B)/honours physics [yes, I was dumb *AND* suicidal when i took this job for the past year] - I have to nail a variety of things on a fairly tight schedule - especially since the AP exams are early May. And while I am 25 at the moment, and really, not all that removed from these students of mine, I feel such a disparity of ability compared to when I went to high school (graduated HS in '93). Some of the essential core basic computing skills have been replaced with the desire and dependency on calculators. Cheating is rather common form with these new graphic calculators, where they simply use the programme space to just dump in equations and other things. And let me tell you, trying to conjure up exams that do not exactly require calculators *AND* allow for a somewhat easy grading session is NOT an easy task. I have to balance exams between comprehension/base knowledge/understanding/gradability. Its rather insane most of the time. Heading back to curriculum, the goal, ultimately, is to show the students how to learn and problem solve (At least, that is what I believe). One can always learn content by picking up a book and reading, but problem solving skills are ultimately more important in this thing that we call life. As without them, none of us would survive in the real world. And the core materials these days just do not allow for problem solving skills, but more for flush and dump content knowledge (like some one else who posted about their class valedictorian earlier) for these damned standardized tests.

- teacher certification - most of you would laugh at how I got certified, but I laud the state in implementing it. As my undergraduate degrees are in Ceramic engineering AND theater (no education what so ever), I technically have zero education experience when i decided that I would like a chance to change the world for the better. In NJ, they offer a programme called Alternate Route, where, essentially, as long as you have a bachelor's degree in *ANYTHING*, and am willing to pay money to take some standardized exams* (more on this later), fill out some forms, get checked out by the FBI and pay money to the state - they'll give you a provisional license to legally look for a job. Once you find somewhere that is interested in taking you on as one of these alternate route candidates, you are thrown into teaching for 1 full year, and take a class that lasts for approximately 80% of the school year. Assuming you survive the class and teaching the classes that you have for the year, and get ok reviews from your department head and principal, you get a REAL teaching certification which does not say how you got it in the first place. Obviously, they will only allow you to teach in areas where you have your degree in *OR* where you have worked for at least X number of years with demonstrated proof of knowledge to teach in that area. WHY are they doing this, you might inquire. Well, in the areas that I am certified for (Physical science, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Performing Art) - there is a significant shortage of people. Not even just good people or bad people, but shortage in general. And many people who are displaced from industry are more than qualified to do this, so that they allow it. And it makes sense to a certain degree, after all, teaching, in some sense, is essentially 'Crowd Control while attempting to disseminate knowledge and understanding at the same time.'

So whats the deal with that standardized tests to become a teacher?? Well, let me tell you - go over to www.ets.org and look under the Praxis area, and specifically, the praxis II's (subject exams), heck, take a look at the praxis I (general content knowledgre) as well, and look at the sample questions *AND THEN* goto your local barnes and noble (borders/waldenbooks, whatever) and just go pick up a book in the test taking section on these things and tell me what you see. For those of us utterly too lazy or unable to do so, what you will find is that the questions are *VERY* easy and cover essentially just basic high school material (not even the AP level stuff!!!!!). When I signed up to take the math certificate test, I assumed that well, in order to become a teacher, I really ought to know more than what the students would possibly ever need to know so that i can anticipate their questions of 'why am I learning this?' or 'what can this be used for?' I essentially, within 3 weeks, relearned what I had forgotten of Calculus 1-3, Advanced Calculus (epsilon delta proofs of calculus), Differntial equations, Statistics, Linear equations, Trig, Geometry, and Non-Euclidian Geometry - expecting this test to be total carnage. When I showed up to take the test, I talked to some of the other people taking the exam - education majors and older teachers that were going for certification. Some of them (the college students) had told me that they had failed the exam twice already, and hoped that this would be an easier time. I was scared, needless to say, as I figured that heck if these people who have taken classes for this stuff is failing, what chance do I stand? I was handed the exam booklet, made sure that it was the test i needed, opened the seal and proceeded to flip through the content of questions, expecting to suffer greatly before I ever started this. Needless to say, I was shocked and stunned and even asked the test instructor if this WAS the right test - who asked me if I was going for math certification, and I said yes. He responded that this was the correct test. At which point I proceeded to destroy the 50 question exam (that you get 2 hours for, no less) on material covering for basic maths to algebra to geometry to pre-calc and 2 whole questions of calculus (ideas on limits). in under 40 minutes. When I got my score back, I cleaned house.

Now, when you set standards this low, it is no wonder that student scores and understanding levels are going to be reduced. The same thing occured in Chem and physics. It was rather sad, actually.

- other teachers/administrators - Remember, once you get Tenure at a public school (or private for that matter, that's where I am now), you're pretty much set for life, as long as you do not do anything terribly, extremely dumb. Now, I was fortunate to have a group of caring, interesting and wanting to teach teachers when I was in high school. These days, it's more about the money and what they can get out of it (convience, benefits and sick days) than anything else. Some of my fellow teachers, are truly idiots. They would NOT stand a chance in the real world, so, the adage of 'Those who can, can. Those who can't, teach.' applies in their cases. The rest in general are tired of fighting a war on multiple fronts that they feel are continually losing. They have to battle the parents as to why the kids are not doing well (you should see/hear some of the complaints these days, when back in my day it was simply us for not working hard enough *AND* not seeking help on our own) It's now automatically the teacher's fault. And then the administrators for the parents complaints, and also the school board as well. Its a thankless job, and as those who are truly dedicated (the baby-boomers) retire within the next 3-5 years, we are going to be truly screwed. Also, the older teachers don't like it when an upstart comes in, and has more knowledge and understanding that they do, and actually do well (these are the ones that are truly burned out and doing minimal to scrape by) - and do the usual politic thing to get you screwed. And this is the most dangerous thing of all, we (as teachers anyway) are supposed to be serving the students and helping them, not making us look good. Some of that vision has been lost through changes in our society.

Okay, enough bickering, let me offer a possible solution for it all. And a sequence to do it no less :)

1) Change the teaching certification requirements in 6-8 years to take full effect, with graded levels as we get there that the certification process is a lot more difficult in terms of content knowledge *AND* understanding. This will enable colleges to adjust according to the plans to support this and the school systems to see what they'll actually get out of it. Starting with the lowest level teachers (Kindgarden thru elementary - this is the most important level anyway, get the best and brightest there, and we'll have more of the best and brightest upcoming). and work our way up to the high school level as the products of these new teachers move up. While we're here, also change the requirements about administrators as well, too many are physical education backgrounded to be doing much good in the general sense as they don't understand the REAL classroom needs. How many admin's have we all known in our education career that's been more than useless?

2) Throw more money toward salaries, support crews and facilities (in that order) to help the teaching process. Keep happier and knowledgeable teachers. You can always fudge labs and space - if the students are interested in learning because the material content is there, and the support to learn is there, they won't mind much about the space they are learning it in. As teachers/students get better, then invest in some heavy duty stuff that the teachers recommend, and not what the administrators recommend to make their lives easier and more productive.

3) Pass laws to make parents accountable for what their childern do. Public school is not a 'free' daycare mandated by law. There are people there who want to learn. Parents should be accountable to a certain degree to what the students are doing. Without this in place, the kids are running rampant, because they *KNOW* that it doesn't matter. Punish the students who are disruptive by making them do 'menial' work. Take them out, have them do work around the school helping the janitorial staff - I'm sure they would welcome the free help. If they do not shape up, ship them out to some kind of forced work programme for pennies - show them the value of a having an education. Have the schools have more 'fun' functions for the ones that are there to learn. With the extra money already put in for the extra support staff, they can manage and run it, instead of making the stressed out teachers do so.

[Yes, I am slightly bitter about that last point. Parents these days - in general - do not take a strong enough stand on their own childern, and they wonder why our society is going down the drain.]

4) Make the teachers accountable. Tenure, does not mean you slack off. Again, with newly designed and thinking skill oriented standardized tests, one could conceivably take a score on a teacher.

5) Reinstate corporal punishment *grins wickedly*

okay okay, I'll be the first to freely admit that some of this is not plausible/feasible in certain degrees. I mean, you could have a batch of students who's learning abilities are lesser than another group, or even desire (Ex. General Skills versus College Prep). Or the inverse to make a teacher look good. We also have the fundamental shift in society to deal with - and that is the instant gratification bit. Attention spans are, overall, down. Remember the days when us 'old' folk used 300-2400 baud modems and downloaded for hours for 1 single game on a C64? These kids are spoiled by Cable Modems and instant responses. They no longer have the patience, and that has to be taught somehow - any takers on that one? And there are also other social ramifications - if we throw more money to education, what happens to the jails (I say lets do more executions instead of this for life junk, give the military freebie target practice, and save money on feeding/support staff fees for institutions. Heck, i'm willing to bet that if we did it on pay per view, the government could get mucho bucks as well)?

What I got out of it? The world does not want to be changed. I'll go back to engineering, where there is no dress code, and a whole lot less work (No grading!! YIPEE!!!!!) for a whole lot more money (110k versus 28.5k) and free beer to boot.

Now, notice that I didn't say teaching was bad, just that it's not for me. I admire and am jealous of those who have the WILL and conviction to teach for life. I wish I had some of their faith.

Comments welcome -vsigma@yahoo.com

US public schools are dead (none / 0) (#90)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 04, 2000 at 07:04:12 AM EST

Maybe our system never really did work. What I know is that it does not work now. We all know it, lowest common denominator... the argument goes on. Education is a way for politicians to get votes. Nothing ever changes, sometimes schools get money thrown at them, sometimes taken away... but basically it stays the same. Sometimes destruction is the only path to improvement. This system is not what we need or want. Nobody is satisfied, unless they simply want something to complain about. I don't know how to do it, but I think anything must be better. I say throw it out, its broken, lets get a new one, and hope its better. What have we to lose?

Followup: What's wrong with public schools? | 90 comments (90 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!